Tab Benoit A Post-Apocalyptic Firebrand Thrills A Sellout Cohoes Music Audience of Adoring Fans
If Hollywood ever decides to remake Mad Max, swamp rock dynamo Tab Benoit is the artist that should play in the concert scene. His two-hour sellout concert at Cohoes Music Hall Thursday night (October 28th) was post-Apocalyptic. I mean he made Metallica look like sissies. And he should be giving George Thorogood lessons in how to rock the blues like there’s no next hour, let alone no tomorrow. With 33 years of experience under his belt and in the middle of a post-pandemic tour of the country that allows him virtually no days off, not even Sundays, he is on fire.
It had been 10 years since I last saw this firebrand from the Louisiana town of Houma and almost 30 years since he played Maura Swift’s Hudson River cruise. I put him on the cover of King Biscuit Time magazine in 2004 well quaffed looking like he was ready for the corporate board room. Today, he has curly hair that strafes his face while he plays what looks like a toy guitar that’s been dragged through an alligator-infested Southern Louisiana swamp. No pedals or effects, thank you. This guy is organic.
If ever there were an artist who needed to play as therapy in a world gone mad, it’s Tab Benoit.
If you get the idea that he was in any way sloppy, think again. Tab is homegrown, but his dexterity on guitar is needle sharp, and his rapport with an audience likewise in need of musical therapy was nothing less impressive than what I’d expect from an Apollo Theater crowd on a hot Saturday night in Harlem. It was the kind of bonding that eliminated the distance between the stage and the rest of the theater. I sat in row A of the balcony and felt like I should be paid as a member of the band. No live streaming will ever replace the kind of presence a show like this offers.
The back story on Tab is that he grew up in Houma, a city of about 30,000 settled in the 18th century by Acadians otherwise known as Cajuns. He has lived there all his life and from the beginning of his career has been active in publicizing the seriousness of climate control as it impacts the wetlands where the Mississippi feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. His band played for both the Democratic and Republican parties during the 2006 election to no avail.
Tab Benoit‘s Voice of the Wetlands Music Festival, established in 2005, takes place in Houma, annually in October. His home was damaged in the August category 4 Hurricane Ida, and this current tour takes him away from doing needed repairs.
Therapy has its price.
He ended his monster set with the closest song he got to having a hit, “Medicine,” the title track of his last studio album released a decade ago. He’s had at least a dozen albums since then of mostly live performances on sale at the show including Whiskey Store (live 2006), Night Train to Nashville (live 2008), Brother to the Blues (2006), Fever for the Bayou (2005), and Power of the Pontchertrain (2007.)
He launched his own label Whiskey Bayou Records in December 2019 and told Cream magazine, “I just finally decided I wanted to kind of specialize in making records that came as close to capturing my live sound as possible and making sure that the musicians on the label are comfortable.” The roster includes Eric McFadden, Damon Fowler, Eric Johanson, Jeff McCarty and Dash Rip Rock. Tab himself, however, is signed to Telarc Records now owned by the corporate giant Concord that also absorbed Rounder Records. They own his entire catalog, and when the CDs he was selling at the show are gone, they own the rights, and they may never be produced again.
Tab often tours with artists on his label and plays drums in their opening sets. For this show, however, Misty Blues opened to a standing ovation. Together for 22 years, they played a cut from their upcoming 11th album. This seven-piece band is never busy, and comes across tight and up to the challenge of opening for the Louisiana legend that is Tab Benoit.